Monday, May 24, 2010

Comfort, Cherries & Castles for Victoria Day

Happy Victoria Day! Well, at least we celebrate good old Queen Victoria here in Canada. I didn't have any big plans for the weekend -- my idea of fun, like Jane Austen's, is to stay home for true comfort.

But to celebrate Victoria Day I usually like to make some kind of cherry dessert or drink (cherries were Queen Victoria's favourite fruit) and laze around treating myself like royalty.

To share my royally entertaining holiday with all my faithful readers, I thought I would put together a little reading list of some books featuring castles. Yes, those royal residences, which feature in these book titles:

1. I Capture the Castle / Dodie Smith

Surely one of my favourite castle-y reads, I have just featured this one in a recent list of fictional journals, as well as a number of other book lists I've done over the past years. My most listed, I believe!

2. We Have Always Lived in the Castle / Shirley Jackson

How could I overlook this creepy classic by the master of psychological horror? Read it with the lights on. Good thing the sun stays around later this time of year...

3. Lesley Castle / Jane Austen

A piece of Austen juvenilia put out by Hesperus Press, this is an entertaining, if not fully polished, epistolary novel -- brief but well worth it. Austen's sharp humour comes through clearly.

4. The Blue Castle / L.M. Montgomery

I am sure that many Lucy Maud fans will agree with me that this book, set outside PEI and aimed at adults, is one of her best. Funny, romantic and dreamy, I've read it about 100 times since I was a teenager. Valancy Stirling, put-upon daughter and spinster in a large clan, discovers she has a heart condition so throws over her societal constraints and family expectations to live the way she wants to, and of course, finds True Love.

5. The Castle / Kafka

If you want to feel like you are in one of those awful nightmares where you are stuck doing the same thing over and over and you are so tired and you don't know what is going on, just read this. Have fun!

6. The Castle of Otranto / Hugh Walpole

One of - if not the very first - Gothic novels in the English language, this is still a fabulously creepy read. Read it at Walpole's posthumous blog ;)

7. Castle Rackrent / Maria Edgeworth

Another 'first' novel: Wikipedia claims this book is "often regarded as the first historical novel, the first regional novel in English, the first Anglo-Irish novel, the first Big House novel and the first saga novel." All I know is that is an entertaining read with great character names, including the narrator, steward Thady Quirk.

8. The View from Castle Rock / Alice Munro

A book of short stories by the recognized master of the short story (and a Canadian to boot). This book is based in her family history, but is fiction. The blending of both, and how it is done, is almost as interesting as the stories themselves.

9. Maiden Castle / John Cowper Powys

A story of awkward and odd individuals in Dorchester, England, making a life together under the looming influence of Maiden Castle. As with all Powys' work, heavy on the myth and mystical aspects.

10. The Man in the High Castle / Philip K. Dick

A masterpiece of alternative history, the book is set in 1962: the United States has lost a war and is occupied by Nazi Germany and Japan. Slavery is legal again, Jews are in hiding. Acknowledged as one of Dick's best.

11. Axel's Castle / Edmund Wilson

And now for some wonderful non-fiction, try this classic study of Symbolism as it appeared in literature. Wilson discuss many of the huge literary stars of the era. Subtitle says it all: A Study in the Imaginative Literature of 1870-1930

12. One Room in a Castle / Karen Connelly

This beautiful travelogue takes us across Greece, Spain and France, all the while seeing things through the eyes of poet Karen Connelly. She is an extraordinary writer, and this book will give you new perspectives on the places she visits, and eventually settles down in.


  1. Now I'm craving cherries!

    Jackson's We Have Always Lived in the Castle is very creepy.

  2. Chris - I agree, Jackson's book gives me the willies ;)

  3. I think it's time for a re-read of Blue Castle. It always seems like a May read to me.

  4. What a fun list! I hope you had a nice day. Did you laze around eating cherries? But I suppose it isn't quite cherry season yet so hopefully you found an acceptable substitute :)

  5. Sassymonkey - great idea. The Blue Castle is certainly a great reread choice this time of year

    Stefanie - no, no fresh cherries this year :( Have to stick with cherry cordial (or the jar of brandied cherries in my fridge...)

  6. What fun, and timely for me, too, as a portion of my long weekend was spent touring Casaloma with visiting family. It's not in the title, but Jennifer Egan's The Keep is a fun castle read: very atmospheric.

  7. Buried in Print - a tour of Casaloma sounds like just the thing for a holiday weekend! You're right, The Keep is very atmospheric...good addition to the list even if it is only part of a castle in the title ;)

  8. This is the second reference to Shirley Jackson's book I've read since never hearing of it before yesterday. So I guess I'm putting that on my list.

    And I'm so glad to read your thoughts re Karen Connelly's. I love her work but hadn't read this one; is it the collection of letters? I had it out from the library recently, but never got around to it.

    (THE CASTLE is one of my absolute favourites -- Oh that Franz, such a card!)

    Nice list. Thanks. And I do hope your cherry (or seasonal substitute) eating weekend went to royal plan.

  9. A few nights ago we watched a charming French film, "My Mother's Castle" ("Le Château de ma mère"). The castle was metaphorical, however, and I don't remember any cherries in it, alas.

  10. carin - yes, you've got to put Shirley Jackson on your TBR list!

    Karen Connelly's One Room in a Castle is a mix of poems, short stories and letters, and it is altogether wonderful. I really, really love it.

    And yes, the weekend was royally enjoyable (and I wasn't too sad to substitute brandied cherries & ice cream for fresh ones...)

    Jeff - I loved that film! Have you watched the companion film, La Gloire de mon pere? I recall them both from my university days...time for a rewatch, I think!


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